shane watson

Views of a Chennai Super Fan – In the end, Mr Cricket is the real winner

Match: Chennai Super Kings vs Rajasthan Royals in Chennai

Result: Chennai Super Kings won by 5 wickets

Narrative:

The Royals chose to bat first, and were single-handedly powered to a mammoth score by Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson, who scored a belligerent ton (also the first of IPL-6). He was particularly harsh on CSK’s new favorite, Jadeja, who cracked in his third over conceding 18 runs including two sixes and two big wides. Stuart Binny was the only other batsman who made a substantial contribution and Ashwin was the only bowler who ended with decent bowling figures. It left the Super Kings needing 186 to win the game.

The Super Kings were in control of the chase, right from the start. Despite Vijay’s failure (again), Hussey and Raina never let the required rate shoot up. Raina scored a much-needed half century with contained some trademark shots of his, while Hussey continued his rich vein of form to score a match-winning 88 from 51 balls which completely neutralized Watson’s century. Despite a late stutter, Bravo’s six in the final over bowled by Watson ensured that CSK would move right to the top of the points table.

Analysis:

It was refreshing to finally see the Super Kings break the back of a chase in the power play overs. Last time I mentioned how their strategy of keeping their push for victory too late would not work every time, and that they need to retune their strategy; it seems like they paid attention. It also helped that chasing a mammoth target meant that they would have to come out all guns blazing from the word ‘go’. For a team which boasts of an enviable depth in batting, they really should bat more confidently and more often. Hopefully, they will make this a trend.

First, the disappointments. There were two, namely Murali Vijay and Ravindra Jadeja. Both were stars of the last Test series against Australia and both were in contrasting form in this IPL, up to the start of this game. Except for a run-a-ball fifty against KXIP, Vijay has had a shoddy time with the bat, and moreover he doesn’t project an air of self-confidence either. Honestly, I don’t see how he can survive the axe for the next game. Baba Aparjith can be given a chance, considering his allround skills.

As for Jadeja, this game was bound to happen sooner than later. He was tonked mercilessly by Watson and he seemed to crack from the pressure bowling two huge wides in his third over. With the bat, he lasted for a mere two deliveries before getting his stumps knocked out of the ground. If he was floating in the air after all the “Sir” jokes and mass adulation, he would have come back to earth with a thud after this game.

We also got our first look at Jason Holder, the tall West Indian bowler. Nothing special about his performance though; unless he picks wickets by the bunch in the next couple of games, I don’t see him getting picked over Nannes, Laughlin or Hilfenhaus in the future.

It was great to see Raina back in fine form; he is one of the finest T20 players around, and the Super Kings would have heaved a sigh of relief when they saw his meaty blows to the fence. Undoubtedly, the real hero for CSK this year has been Michael Hussey. Free of national commitments, Mr Cricket has narrowed his focus to performing for CSK with all the zeal and determination of a player trying to make his mark among the big boys. With his third fifty this year, he has zoomed to the top of the run charts and established himself as CSK’s most prized wicket; and that’s saying something considering the rich array of batsmen that the men in yellow possess.

Preview of next game:

Hyderabad Sunrisers in Chennai. Without Perera and Sangakarra, the team will be considerably weakened; but the likes of Mishra , Steyn, White and Vihari, with the possible inclusion of World Cup winning skipper Darren Sammy, will ensure a tough contest for the Super Kings. The Sunrisers are third in the points table and they will itching to show just why.

 

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Three Points Everyone – How Homeworkgate could have been avoided

Yesterday morning, I was wondering how slowly time passes by while one waits for the next cricket match featuring the Indian team. Then without warning, the cricket universe erupted in furor over the axing of four Australian cricketers from the Mohali game. Reason? The four players had failed to turn over an assignment to the coach within the imposed deadline. Task? Give at least three pointers about what the team had learnt from their drubbing in the first two tests and how they could improve over the remainder of the series. Predictably, Twitter and Facbook had a field day mercilessly mocking Mickey Arthur and the Aussie team. It seemed like an over-reaction from a frazzled team management in the middle of an important series gone terribly wrong.

A day later, mockery has given way to a more pragmatic understanding of the situation. The punishment may have been harsh, but it does seem like a reasonable request from the coach and captain to provide one’s input on how things can change for the better. After all, how hard is it to come up with a minimum of three pointers on how to improve the Australian performance? Especially, since they had five days to come up with it! Here are some of my suggestions, if the four players had the foresight to outsource their assignment to social media.

  1. Ask for bouncy pitches
  2. Get laughed at
  3. Tell the opposition we’ll seem them in Australia

 

  1. Bowl in the right areas
  2. Execute our skills
  3. Listen less to Ravi Shastri’s commentary

 

  1. Bat better
  2. Bowl better
  3. Field better

 

  1. Ask Pujara what he has for breakfast
  2. Ask the Indian spinners for tips on how to play them
  3. Ask Jadeja for fielding tips

 

  1. Eat
  2. Pray
  3. Love

 

  1. Get a better coach
  2. Haha..I was kidding. I meant “coach” as in bus
  3. Pack my bags

 

  1. Less presentations
  2. More net practice
  3. Pack my bags

 

  1. Bat like Clarke
  2. Bowl like Pattinson
  3. Field like Warner

 

  1. Don’t bat like Hughes
  2. Don’t bowl like Maxwell
  3. Don’t field like Cowan

 

  1. Import batsmen from South Africa
  2. Import spinners from Pakistan
  3. Import coach from Zimbabwe
  4. (bonus) Pack my bags.

“Sigh. I hope I can still carry drinks.”

 

 

Munaf and Watson – cometh the hour, cometh the men

Cricket can be so infuriating sometimes. Just when you think you know it all, and how a game is going to pan out – thats when it bites you in the ass. Yesterday, I switched off from the India – South Africa game, when SA were 106/3; fully confident that South Africa would easily win the game considering the way Smith was playing. Of course, I conveniently forgot another India – South Africa clash which took place in 2002, a semifinal match in the ICC Champions Trophy in Colombo. South Africa were cruising to victory chasing 262, with Gibbs and Kallis leading the way, when I switched off the telly at 180/1. The next morning, I woke up to the news that India had won the game by 10 runs due to a combination of uncharacteristic Indian fielding and characteristic South African choking. That day, I made a vow to myself, that I would never consider any result as a foregone conclusion, based on halfway scorelines. Instead, I fell into old habits, and voila, 24 hours later when I decided to check the latest cricket news – ‘Munaf stars in stunning one-run win’.

After frantically searching for highlights, I managed to watch how the game was won (and lost by South Africa). There will be a lot of critics throwing out the ‘C’ word, but how else can you describe this, other than saying that the Saffers choked big time. The pitch was slow alright, but with Smith playing the way he was, and the presence of legitimate batsmen like Duminy and Miller for support, there is no way that they should have lost the game. The Indian bowling was disciplined but not threatening, and they were more generous with the bad deliveries unlike the South African bowling. With the World Cup around the corner, they will face more pitches like these in the subcontinent, and it is time they think about a deeper batting line up. Botha and Parnell can get you runs now and then, but you cannot expect them to score all the time, and against tougher bowling attacks.

On the other hand, when India needed a player to step up to the moment, Munaf Patel came forward. I don’t think he was unplayable, but he did his part to the best of his abilities. First up, he took out the big wicket of Amla and that was invaluable considering the form he is in. Then, he returned to trigger the slide, with the wicket of the skipper; and hammered the final nail in the coffin with the wickets of Morkel and Parnell. The thing about Munaf is, that like the South African Tsotsobe, he is not express pace like Steyn and does not generate bounce like Morkel; but when the mood strikes him, he can bowl with unerring discipline and accuracy, which is a potent mix in ODIs. With the World Cup team selection next week, Munaf grabbed his chance to impress the selectors, and in the process brought about a morale boosting win for the Indians.

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Since I had switched off from the cricket for 24 hours, I missed another classic game between cricket’s oldest traditional rivals. In the first of a marathon ODI series, England had set Australia  a target of 295, which was duly chased down with Shane Watson leading the way. I haven’t yet seen any highlights of the game, but from what I read, he played one of the finest one-day knocks ever seen, and even without seeing any of it, I can agree with that.

Throughout a horrendous summer for the Aussies, Watson has scored umpteen fifties, without ever carrying on to make a big one; and it has hurt the team, as he is one of the few batsmen in good nick. On a Melbourne Sunday, that changed, as he led the way with a fine unbeaten 161. As I cannot judge his innings without having seen it, I can appreciate the context in which he has scored it. Having lost the Ashes at home and tied the T20s, Australia would have been desperate for some good news, anything to divert their minds from the devastating floods. Watson himself had so much to worry about, with the floods having caused havoc in his hometown of Ipswich. Additionally, he had the burden of leading the batting forward in the absence of support from his fellow top order bats. A loss in the first match of the series, could have plunged the team into serious doubt over their own abilities as a winning side and adversely affected their mindset for the impending World Cup; but as they say, ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ and Watson was the man for Australia. I was never really a fan of Watto, but he has won me over. In the face of doubts, criticisms, ridicules and severe strife, he played a defining knock to cheer his country and give his team hope. For that, I can get behind him, and even make an honest effort to like him. Here’s to an actual contest between England and Australia!

 

Kallis scores a ton; Watson scores a 40 – nothing’s changed in 2011

Admitted, it has only been two days of test cricket in two matches; but one can sense, that for some, things will never change.

In South Africa, a fascinating contest between the top two teams is taking place, where after two days, the game seems fairly even. For that, the credit should go to Kallis. The bulwark of South Africa batting for more than a decade, has once again risen to the big occasion, and given his team the best possible position to win the game. As much as I am a big fan of Tendulkar, I find it a bit condescending that some people label Kallis as the ‘Tendulkar of South Africa’. Kallis is a legend in his own right, and if there is anyone who can catch up with Sachin in terms of Test centuries, only he stands a realistic chance. He has been ridiculously consistent all across the globe, and unlike other contemporary batting superstars, I don’t recall him being in any kind of poor form over the course of his career. The only thing which can stop him right now is his age and the toll on his body every time he comes out to play.  Now, that he is unlikely to bat in the 2nd innings unless it is necessary, India will have gained some more confidence in their search for that elusive series victory in South Africa.

Across the seas, in Australia, you would be forgiven for having a sense of deja vu. Australia bat first, lose wickets at regular intervals, and concede the first day’s honors to England. The story of the series, really. There were some changes in the storyline of course; Australia had a new skipper and a new number 3 batsman, one of whom had a creditable outing. Hughes waited till he got to the 30s before giving his wicket to Tremlett; and thanks to rain, Australia were not bowled out in the first day itself. All these aside, what amuses me, is Watson’s inability to post a big score. Here is one of Australia’s in-form batsmen, who looks rarely troubled when he is at the crease, has the ability to both attack and defend capably, and has the important responsibility of setting the agenda for the game, given his batting position, form and situation of the series; but there he is, once again, looking set for a big one, before losing concentration to throw away his wicket. If North was infuriating for his wild inconsistencies, Watson is infuriating (to the Aussies!) for his  ridiculous consistency in throwing away good starts. Given that Hughes is still fighting his own personal battles with technique, it is imperative for Watson to get big scores at the top of the order, and relieve some of the pressure faced by the brittle middle order. You can have all the technique and talent in the world, but if you can’t make use of it, what is the point? He would do well to look at a fellow allrounder in South Africa for inspiration.

Finally, here is the wisest quote of this infant year, so far:

You can make something out of anything. You can say Michael Beer is the first person to stick his tongue out 24/7 to play for Australia.

Usman Khawaja on his ‘history-making heritage’